Jim Randolph

Oct 232014
 

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift.  Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip.  It’s OK if you call me “cheap.”  

You can buy a non-slip “router pad” from any number of suppliers.  It’s great stuff and will grip your work on one side and the table surface on the other side with amazing tenacity.  Cheapsters like me, though, look for folks who have changed out their carpet with new underlayment (pad).  Just keep your eyes open on garbage day and you can find a gold mine like the one pictured.

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You can pay a fortune per square foot for a “router pad,” or you can have this for free. All it costs you is your pride! And, if it’s wintertime, just wear your ski mask and your neighbors will never know it’s you!

Take more than you need and store the excess in your attic or share it with your woodworking buddies.  Cut a variety of sizes to accommodate jobs small to large.  When rolled up, it stores in a small area.

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I keep some “router pad,” used carpet underlayment, stashed in various places around the shop.

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Some here, some there.

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Even if I’m not routing, it makes a terrific scratch-free surface to work on.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home. Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Oct 142014
 

That Steven Johnson just won’t leave me alone.  I’m thinking of blocking his email address. He just won’t stop bugging me about the Festool cord-and-hose boom arm. I’m hoping for one of two outcomes. Either he sees I’m happy with this month’s tip to solve the problem or alternatively, maybe he thinks I’m just fooling myself and he will take pity on me and just send me one. Prepaid, that is.  Of course, he said he’s going to send me some of his “gently-used” washers, too, but I’m still waiting.

So, what are the chances he’ll be sending me a boom arm that costs $365.00? Well, OK, I’ll give you that it goes everywhere your CT dust extractor goes, which means there’s no disconnecting and moving, as there is with my bungee cord. And, it’s always set up and ready to use. Oh, yeah, and there’s no hunting for the end of the hose or the cord.  Y’know what? Maybe that Steve Johnson is onto something. Where’s my Highland Woodworking order form? Until we can get a Festool boom, you and I can enjoy my bungee cord version below:

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My cord management system started out with this succession of screw hooks installed in the ceiling joists for the purpose of hanging items to paint. By looping an extension cord from hook to hook it’s easy to keep the cord above the work and out of the way, but easy to let out more cord when needed, too

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The next generation embraced cord management and dust extractor hose management, too. Some tools have long enough cords for the electricity to follow the elevated hose. The bungee cord provides flexibility as the sander moves from one end of the board the other.

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A closeup of the bungee cord attachment. A forecast probability of rain had me put up the “tent” so I could sand away without getting sanding dust all over the shop, but still not get rained on.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home. Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Oct 012014
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist, not a professional, someone who loves woodworking, just like you do. I have found some better ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop and look forward to sharing those with you each month, as well as hearing your problem-solving ideas.

Tip #1: RED NAIL POLISH

Everyone who is patient raise your hand. That’s what I thought: nobody. Well, except for you, in the back, and I thought you looked a little strange. I am with the majority, having no patience, especially with electrical plugs. When I am ready to plug in, I want to plug in now!

NO body is going to make a mistake with these: the round part goes in the round hole, and it directs the other two where they belong.

NO body is going to make a mistake with these: the round part goes in the round hole, and it directs the other two where they belong.

The 3-prong jobs are easy; even those over 40 with “too-short arms” can see which orientation is correct for them. These newfangled double-insulated tools, however, with their polarized plugs just don’t create enough contrast to tell the wider blade of the plug from the narrow one. Now, you could just try to put it in, then turn it over when it doesn’t go.

Everything’s a little fuzzy. I think I have some glasses around the shop somewhere. Which one is the wide one?

“Everything’s a little fuzzy. I think I have some glasses around the shop somewhere. Which one is the wide one?”

But who has time for that? Then, some manufacturers feel the need to buck the international standard when they incorporate cord-holding moldings into their plugs. On most tools the side with the holding loop lines up with the grounding hole, but not always!

The manufacturer of this Craftsman vacuum, who shall remain unnamed, thought it would be smart to put the cord-holding loop on the side opposite the ground hole. Why? Just to be different? Just to annoy me?

The manufacturer of this Craftsman vacuum, who shall remain unnamed, thought it would be smart to put the cord-holding loop on the side opposite the ground hole. Why? Just to be different? Just to annoy me?

My timesaving solution for this problem is to paint red nail polish (why, yes, it is the shade I usually wear!) on the side of the plug that coordinates to the grounding hole.

Cover the entire surface so that you will see at first glance which way to orient the plug. Use multiple thin coats. Nail polish dries quickly, you can finish an entire plug in 15 minutes.

Cover the entire surface so that you will see at first glance which way to orient the plug. Use multiple thin coats. Nail polish dries quickly, you can finish an entire plug in 15 minutes.

Technique: Like any paint job, multiple, thin layers work best. Maybe it’s the cheap nail polish I bought, but it took me 5 coats to get really good coverage. The stuff wears like iron, though!

Technique: Like any paint job, multiple, thin layers work best. Maybe it’s the cheap nail polish I bought, but it took me 5 coats to get really good coverage. The stuff wears like iron, though!

The same technique works on anything that plugs in. I used it on this lightbulb adapter so I quickly know which way to turn it to plug it in.

Tip #2:  COAT HANGERS

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift. Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip. It’s OK if you call me “cheap.” 

Coat hanger, coat hanger, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. No, this won’t be a treatise on 1000 ways to use coat hangers (yes, I looked it up, it’s supposed to be written as two words unless you’re from the land where “women glow and men plunder,” where coathanger is said to be preferred).

  1. Need a long drill bit? If you’re drilling through something relatively soft, like wood or insulation board, cut the bottom part of the coat hanger off, restricting yourself to just the completely straight part. Cut one end square and the other end on the most acute angle you can.
    A light wiping of WD40, machine oil or even Vaseline will lube this “drill bit” for easier entry. Shown is the chisel point version, but you can also sharpen the tip on your grinder for even easier, faster entry.

    A light wiping of WD40, machine oil or even Vaseline will lube this “drill bit” for easier entry. Shown is the chisel point version, but you can also sharpen the tip on your grinder for an even easier and faster entry.

    Wrap your fist around the middle for support to prevent bending. Using discretion, don’t push too hard or run the drill too fast, either of which could cause you to lose control. Now, the business end can act as a chisel-point bit and if you need a guide to show you where to come out on the opposite side of a wall, drill away. As always, be sure you’re not going to hit electrical wires or water pipes. This baby will drill right through Romex and PVC.

    I needed to know where to drill outside on the roof to put these lag bolts into the rafter. With this guide I was right on target.

    I needed to know where to drill outside on the roof to put these lag bolts into the rafter. With this guide I was right on target.

  2. If your stud finder isn’t giving you clearcut direction, this “drill bit” will allow you to define the edges of a stud without making gigantic holes.
  3. A coat hanger is the repairman’s chewing gum. I have brazed many a muffler and tailpipe with nothing more than an acetylene torch and a hanger.
  4. Speaking of repairs, the soft metal of a coat hanger will assume almost any shape you want. I once had a broken fan belt and no time to go to the store for a replacement. Using tip #1 above I drilled a hole either side of the rent in the belt. I then cut a U-shaped piece of hanger, passed it through the holes from the “pulley side,” and twisted the ends together on the outside. It worked so well on the fan that I forgot to replace the belt for months.
  5. Genetically incapable of discarding anything with future value, I keep a collection of hangers previously used.
    These are all “gently used,” but stand ready for their next service opportunity. I even keep the ones I’ve used for drill bits as long as they aren’t damaged in use.

    These are all “gently used,” but stand ready for their next service opportunity. I even keep the ones I’ve used for drill bits as long as they aren’t damaged in use.

    Straightened, but with the hook still on the top, you can hang almost anything from them. They are great for painting small, medium, even large items. In the area I use for painting, there are a kazillion (Sorry, Steve) nails in the I-beam rafters.

    These nails are permanently in these ceiling joists in the painting area, always ready to be pressed into service for hanging.

    These nails are permanently in these ceiling joists in the painting area, always ready to be pressed into service for hanging.

    Because it’s an open and well-lighted area, I can spread a plastic drop cloth to catch most of the drippy paint.

    What? Sure, it’s beat up. And patched. You thought I’d throw it away after I used it once? You must be new to the column!

    What? Sure, it’s beat up. And patched. You thought I’d throw it away after I used it once? You must be new to the column!

    For little bitty items, like these finials, you can screw a hook into the mounting hole, gang two or even three hangers together to get it down to a comfortable working height, and paint away.

    For little bitty items, like these finials, you can screw a hook into the mounting hole, gang two or even three hangers together to get it down to a comfortable working height, and paint away.

    Longer items, like this handrail, can be hung lower, or horizontally, for easy access. Note that two straightened hangers are used to accomplish the desired height. The screw hook in the middle makes a handy way to stop the item’s movement while applying finish without touching the wet surface. Longer items, like this handrail to the left, can be hung lower, or horizontally, for easy access. Note that two straightened hangers are used to accomplish the desired height. The screw hook in the middle makes a handy way to stop the item’s movement while applying finish without touching the wet surface.

  6. The metal in coat hangers is soft and malleable. That can be good or bad. Depends on your planned usage. The softness of the metal makes it easy to cut with even the least sophisticated tool, such as the shear in the jaws of your slip-joint pliers. On the other hand, if you want to take a piece out by fatiguing the metal, you will be at it for a while. Hard, brittle metals lend themselves to better success with that method.
    Because the metal is soft, I was able to shape it into these hangers.

    Because the metal is soft, I was able to shape it into these hangers.

    On the other hand, soft metal is easily bent, so making these hooks for jack stands, the angle had to be very acute.

    On the other hand, soft metal is easily bent, so making these hooks for jack stands, the angle had to be very acute.

    Coat hangers make a great twist tie. Okay, so they’re not quite as easy to use as the ones from the grocery’s produce department, but they are a lot more substantial!

    Coat hangers make a great twist tie. Okay, so they’re not quite as easy to use as the ones from the grocery’s produce department, but they are a lot more substantial!

    CLICK HERE to go back to the October 2014 issue of Wood News Online


    Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home. Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Sep 022014
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist, not a professional, someone who loves woodworking, just like you do. I have found some better ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop and look forward to sharing those with you each month, as well as hearing your problem-solving ideas.

Tip #1

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The closer your bucket is to the hole in your drill press table the greater the percentage of refuse you’ll catch. Just stack them up to get the height you need.

Some jobs are big enough to set up dust collection on the drill press. Others just don’t take long enough or make a big enough mess to justify the time for all that setup.  Still, if you want to catch the mess and minimize the time for cleanup, a 5-gallon bucket or small trash can under the center of the drill press will catch the bulk of your chips and the bigmouthed garbage can next to the drill press will give you a quick and easy place to sweep flying chips from the drill press’ stage. When I do want to use dust collection on the drill press, this is the way I usually do it.

As the drill press slings shavings or sanding dust, the open hose of the dust collector sucks them up. Cleanup after a job like this is minimal.

As the drill press slings shavings or sanding dust, the open hose of the dust collector sucks them up. Cleanup after a job like this is minimal.

I have a couple of “extra” drops to our dust collector, 4″ each, and they can be used for whatever portable machine they’re needed for.

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When I was designing this system, with the help of Oneida, I didn’t have a specific plan for these two connections, but figured if I never used them I could always keep the blast gates closed and there wouldn’t be much cost, especially compared to cutting into the line and trying to insert a connection later.  They have proven to be invaluable and they can be used for whatever portable machine they’re needed for.  Roll the router table up, pull down the flexible hose and hook ‘er up.

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Hooking up the router table is quick and easy with one connection taking care of off-the-bit and under the router as seen below.

Ditto for the oscillating spindle sander below, which can accept a Shop Vac, the Festool Dust Extractor or, with this adaptor, the full force of the dust collector. These two unassigned drops have really come in handy.

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The oscillating spindle sander can accept a Shop Vac, with or without the Dust Deputy separator, which really helps reduce filter clogging.

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With this adaptor, the full force of the dust collector can be applied to the sanding dust output of the oscillating spindle sander.

Tip #2

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift.  Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip.  It’s OK if you call me “cheap.” 

Never pay for buckets.

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Like garbage cans, buckets are everywhere I go. I know “Homer” has orange ones for sale, and there are blue ones you can buy, but I prefer mine totally free, if you don’t mind.

Instead, keep your eyes open as you drive around.  Buckets fall from vehicles all the time and you need only find a safe place to pull over and fetch the free bucket.  And, remember what Mama always said, “Look both ways before crossing the street.”


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home. Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

May 012014
 

Regular readers of Tips From The Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop know that my wife and I live on a bayou in south Mississippi and my woodshop is in the lower level of our home.  One doesn’t live on a watershed waterway for very long before he learns that, in addition to the blessings, there are challenges.  For one, don’t put anything in the back yard that isn’t lashed to a tree.  See this picnic table I built?

We live on Rotten Bayou, a tributary off the Jourdan River in South Mississippi.  Legend says it gets its name because Indians came here to clean their game, and unusable parts went into the water to feed the fish that they would return and catch.  Its native American name is Bayou Beneshewa.

We live on Rotten Bayou, a tributary off the Jourdan River in South Mississippi. Legend says it gets its name because Indians came here to clean their game, and unusable parts went into the water to feed the fish that they would return and catch. Its native American name is Bayou Beneshewa.

This table was twenty feet in the air after Katrina brought thirty-two feet of water to our house.  Thanks to a sturdy chain as its permanent tether, it floated twenty feet  up, but it couldn’t go away. On the other hand, see this picnic table?  Thanks to one of those floods, it left someone else’s back yard and became ours.
This picnic table was on the far side of the bayou from us and a little downstream.  Even treated pine in an outdoor environment maintains its buoyancy, which is how the table left someone else’s yard in a flood.  It floated nicely behind our boat, we drifted it into the boat ramp, onto a waiting trailer and into this spot where it makes a nice catch-all.  Who knows, we might even picnic on it one day!

This picnic table was on the far side of the bayou from us and a little downstream. Even treated pine in an outdoor environment maintains its buoyancy, which is how the table left someone else’s yard in a flood. It floated nicely behind our boat, we drifted it into the boat ramp, onto a waiting trailer and into this spot where it makes a nice catch-all. Who knows, we might even picnic on it one day!

Believe it or not, another picnic table drifted up in a flood, too.

This table was in pretty sorry shape, but good enough for wife Brenda to use for a potting table.

This table was in pretty sorry shape, but good enough for wife Brenda to use for a potting table.

May I interest anyone in a canoe?

While neither of these is an expensive racing canoe, I’m sure someone, somewhere, wishes they were still in his yard.  Just in case anyone comes looking for the refuse that washes in, I always leave it on the bank for a few weeks in case the rightful owner’s search brings him our way.

While neither of these is an expensive racing canoe, I’m sure someone, somewhere, wishes they were still in his yard. Just in case anyone comes looking for the refuse that washes in, I always leave it on the bank for a few weeks in case the rightful owner’s search brings him our way.

Then there was the day that three matching life jackets floated up.

These three life jackets floated down the bayou one day like three little yellow ducklings.  I left them on this tree in case anyone wanted to claim them, but no one came calling.

These three life jackets floated down the bayou one day like three little yellow ducklings. I left them on this tree in case anyone wanted to claim them, but no one came calling.

One flood brought us a pretzel. A ten-foot-long pretzel.

I can’t say what made me want to investigate this board further.  It couldn’t be much uglier from the outside, and it had a huge “barked” area, indicating it was from the outside of its parent tree.  Still, I’m glad I got out the sander that day!

I can’t say what made me want to investigate this board further. It couldn’t be much uglier from the outside, and it had a huge “barked” area, indicating it was from the outside of its parent tree. Still, I’m glad I got out the sander that day!

This twisted 4 by 4 was nothing to look at from the outside. However, as a fan of found treasures, I couldn’t put it in the fencepost pile without a quick sanding of the outside.

I theorized that it might have been part of the support for a load on a 18-wheeler’s flatbed.

I was unprepared for what the sanding revealed.

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The grain pattern was magnificent.  Beautiful and mysterious.  Having no idea what kind of wood it was, and no thoughts of how to begin to identify it, I cut off a little piece and took it to church with me.

That’s right.  Church.

The gentleman who sits to my left in choir is a retired forester whose title before retirement was wood procurement manager.  I was confident he could identify it for me.

“I’m not sure, Jim,” said Jim Odom.  “It might be quartersawn oak or maple that has a really complicated figure.  Or, it might be a South American exotic.  I’m just not sure.”

It was so pretty that I decided it was going to become part of the “stool series,” regardless of its species.  You see, each of our grandchildren has a kid’s stool with his or her initials, and each has a unique design and is made from wood with a story.  (See next month’s blog post for photos of each stool and its story.)  I didn’t yet know just how much “story” this wood was going to have!

The first step was to get rid of the crookedness; not a small undertaking for a pretzel.  I was able to take a lot of the bend out by using the radial arm saw to cut the 4×4 into pieces.  Each piece was two inches longer than the longest measurement on the stool’s final size.  The jointer did the yeoman’s share of flattening one surface, then the band saw and planer were able to turn out boards that were flat and square.

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Meanwhile, I took photographs of the wood and e-mailed pictures to every woodworker I could think of.  My furniture-restoring pen pal, Alan Noel, looked and confidently said “beech.”  Knowing of my ignorance of wood species’ characteristics, he added, “Beech is a very waxy wood that is used primarily for chair frames and veneering because it does have some interesting figure. When finishing, be sure to wash it with shellac (1lb. cut) to seal in the waxy surface and finish with anything after that.”

Armed with that information, I proceeded to scroll-sawing initials, assembly and final sanding.

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Meanwhile, I had sent out e-mails to other experts at the same time as Alan’s e-mail.  Bert Scarbrough, owner of Peach State Lumber, offered his guess as quartersawn sycamore.  Charles Brock took a look at the same photos and concurred.  Bert also suggested sending a sample to the US Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wisconsin.  I found their Web site, took note of the sample submission requirements and sent specimens in.  A disclaimer on their homepage says that it may take 4-6 weeks to receive an ID.  No problem; that still put me in a good range to finish Owen’s stool before his second birthday, although it would be close.  Knowing absolutely nothing about shellac, I didn’t know whether to follow Alan’s suggestion and assume the wood was beech and seal with shellac first, or wait for the final identification.

I elected to wait.

Eight weeks came and went.  I called FPL and asked them about the ID.  The very nice lady said she couldn’t even give me a guess about when my wood sample would be identified.

My next step was to contact Alan for advice about progressing with the shellac base before finishing.  “No problem,” was Alan’s response.  “Shellac under polyurethane is safe regardless of what the wood species turns out to be.”  With that confidence, I repeated my “final” sanding, and purchased a can of spray shellac.  The rest of the finishing steps were uneventful, and, after a few days of drying time, I wrapped Owen’s stool in waxed paper, several blankets, and put it in the mail.

The clerk at the post office asked if I wanted insurance.  I told her I didn’t think a million dollars was excessive.  After she told me the fee for that level of coverage, I said maybe a thousand would be OK.

If I had to start this project over, I wanted to be well-compensated!

Fast forward.

Fast forward 11 months.  That’s how long it took to get the ID from FPL.  After a Web site claim of 4-6 weeks!  Of course, we had the federal government on “sequestration” during that time, and, I can’t say enough about how polite and patient the phone receptionist was.

But, there was another area of letdown, too.  Take a look at the report.

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Genus name only!  Nothing else!  My hopes were high that I was going to really “nerd out” on their analysis based on what Bert had said in his initial email:  “ I have used them in the past and they give you more information than you care to know by looking at the sample with a microscope; like the region it grew and the scientific name and maybe how old it is.  It usually takes them a few weeks to get back to you but they will.”

So, hand it to Bert Scarbrough and Chuck Brock; they nailed “sycamore.”  Which is the most likely Platanus(pronounced PLAT-uh-nuss) possibility for pallet lumber in the continental US.  Quartersawn sycamore is sometimes called “lacewood,” but lacewood is properly Cardwellia sublimis, from Australia, and I can’t picture anyone making pallets or tractor-trailer supports out of exotic wood!

The bottom line is that Owen was happy with his stool, and his big sister is happy that he won’t be commandeering hers all the time.  There is the unfortunate side effect, though, that his parents report:  Now he has a tool to reach even more things he has no business getting into!